The Process of Enjoyment

I think that sometimes, because I use this outlet to vent, that people get the incorrect impression that I am not enjoying my violin journey. Quite the opposite! I would not have stuck with it for over two years, paying out thousands of dollars in tuition and equipment, if I did not truly enjoy what I am doing.

I vent here, because it’s safe. If I have a rough practice, or a phrase isn’t shaping correctly, or I just can’t stand to watch yet one more miniature prodigy on You Tube, then I come here and complain. What I don’t often do is tell you what I love about playing this instrument.

As silly as this may sound, I love being able to say that I am a violinist. Sure, I’m not Anne Sophie Mutter, but I can play a pretty fair tune or two. When once I felt awkward even holding the instrument, now I’m doing fun things like double stops (chords), harmonics, and creeping my way towards the very far reaches of the finger board. The harder this gets, the more interesting I find it to be. And there’s nothing more gratifying than going back to an old piece and wondering what was so hard about it the first time. With this instrument, I’m always learning, always improving, and always have more to work towards. I can’t get bored. It’s simply not possible.

Sure, I mostly play for myself, and a relatively tolerant husband and children; but I dream of one day playing with a group of musicians. I want to know what it is like to be a part of a whole – one voice in a sea of orchestral sound, or a supporting role in a small chamber setting. Maybe one day I will even nail a solo in a group recital. I can’t possibly play worse than I did for that first ever solo.

For once, I can see measurable progress in something that I am doing, and it hasn’t stagnated. Other endeavors have not been so satisfying. Running was great at first, but after I ran several races, I stopped improving, and I lost interest because training for faster speeds was fruitless and exhausting. Knitting is just wrapping yarn around needles. There’s variation, but there’s tedium too. Of course I still knit because it’s relaxing, but it’s less interesting to me now.

Playing the violin is both relaxing and exhausting; but it’s also intriguing, exciting, sometimes tedious, always a welcome break from every day chores, intellectually stimulating, and blissfully frustrating. The extremely difficult nature of this instrument is the very thing that keeps it always fresh. Plus, there’s so much to learn that if you hit paralysis on one aspect of playing, you can attack something else and still make progress.

I don’t think I would enjoy the process as much as I do if I didn’t have the capable guidance of my teacher. He knows when to push me, can pick out and solve any problem, and reminds me frequently that I’m only human, that my struggles are normal, and that I’m still moving forward. My teacher provides that constant gut check that helps me refocus and direct my energies in a positive direction. Without that, I would lose my way, and playing would have a much less satisfactory return on investment of time and energy.

With my violin, I can sing like an angel even if I can’t vocalize. When the low notes reverberate through my collarbone, or the E string vibrates in sympathy with a well placed finger on the A, or a heart-stoppingly high note rings out perfectly in tune, you can’t help but feel joy. Joy-because the notes are so sweet, and joy because you made them.

The definition of enjoy is to have or experience pleasure or satisfaction in something. That’s what playing the violin is like – pure enjoyment.

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